[Editor's note: In our latest interview series, Behind the Curtain, we talk to the people backstage in the ski industry, the often-invisible, always hard-working coaches, techs, ski patrollers, course builders and more. Here is part two of the series. Check out part one with ski tuner Kenny Nault and part three with coach Elana Chase.]
It would be hard to find someone who knows the big-mountain ski and snowboard worlds better than Frankie Alisuag. Not only does Alisuag handle announcing duties for the Subaru Freeskiing World Tour and the North Face Masters series, he also runs Matchstick Productions' fall tour and produces events for ESPN -- a schedule that keeps him on the road 22 weeks a year. Alisuag's former life as a big-mountain competitor (he peaked with a third-place finish at the 2000 Crested Butte Extremes, a contest he's watched or worked every year since 1992) and his connections with current pros make him uniquely qualified to share perspective on the sport.
I spend most of my time watching other people ski.
But I love it, because I've been there and I know what it feels like to have all those nerves and to be wound up and tense, trying to be focused and trying to remain positive.
I remember thinking I'd rather blow up and crash, or get hurt, than ski poorly. Those are not normal things to think, but it's an unusual combination of feelings.
Watching guys who are really polished in this sport, it's amazing. You know that they're confident in their abilities, and when it all comes together, it feels like nothing. You look back and you're like, what just happened? Did I just do that? It's an intense feeling, being in the gate and having the whole venue to yourself, knowing all eyes are on you.
Overall, I want this to come off as a serious competition. The skiing is consequential, but yeah, there's a moment for everything. I like to lighten things up and make people laugh when I'm announcing. I'm literally rambling, winging it from the hip.
The talent is so deep today, not only in the competition world but in the film world. Doing well in these competitions is not necessarily that "next step" anymore. But it's always going to be a stage to prove yourself. And I think most kids don't necessarily want to prove it to the world, they want to prove it to themselves.
I don't think competition will ever become obsolete from a participant's standpoint. These events sell out in a matter of seconds nowadays. For example, here at Crested Butte we have a 100-person wait list. I kind of feel after talking to these kids that they take it for what it is. They realize how hard it is. They're working two jobs or working all summer to save up -- living what is, in fact, a hard existence for something they truly love.
I started as just a normal Crested Butte ski bum like everybody else, working at Flatiron Sports in the rental department. I had a solid six years of 100-plus days a year. Now, I'm lucky if I get 25 actual ski days. Twenty-five days where I'm actually skiing for myself and having fun and staying out as long as I can.
I'm proud to say that I saw Seth [Morrison] get his start. Ripping around with him is still really fun, because he just charges, chucks himself no matter what. The kid, it doesn't matter where he is, I mean, he loves skiing; that's what he's all about, and it's pretty obvious. When you're out with him, you do a lot of watching, you do a lot of trying to keep up and match his moves off of features. The guy is a pinball, he's a master. He truly is.